Friday, 6 June 2014

Five Books From My Formative Years

by Kelly Boyce 

The gist of the post was to write about my Five Favourite Books, but given that there was no way to pare that list down to just five, and I didn’t think anyone wanted to stick around long enough to read such a lengthy dissertation of my top 100, I decided to make this about the five books that had an impact on me during my formative years.

On the Sidewalk Bleeding by Evan Hunter
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat. It’s not actually a book, but a short story. I read it when I was in grade seven as a school assignment. At the time, I still wanted to grow up and be a farmer. I had always made up stories in my head for as far back as I can remember, but when I read this short story it hit me like a tonne of bricks – I could write my stories down.  Once that realization hit, I changed from wanting to be a farmer to wanting to be a writing farmer. It took a few more years before I decided writing was a more viable option for me, given I didn’t really know anything about farming.

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune
To say I loved this book would be a gross understatement. I didn’t just love this book as a kid, I was obsessed with it. It was a book about a collie named Lad and the book basically consisted of a series of stories about the dog. They had two hardcover copies at the library in New Glasgow where I grew up and I would take one out, return in on the due date, pick up the second book before I left, return it on the due date, and retake out the first. This sequence repeated itself for years. I could practically repeat the stories word for word and didn’t even need the book any more, but I loved the experience of reading it, of getting lost in the dog’s world and wishing I could have a dog just like him. In my thirties, I found a paperback copy of the book and snatched it up. Now and again I’ll pull it out and have a read through and it brings me right back to my childhood.

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
This book was magical to me. The minute I started reading it I was transported somewhere else. The story is about three kids who move to the country where they find an Enchanted Wood. In the wood is the magic
Faraway Tree. I cannot tell you how badly I wanted that Faraway Tree. You see, the  Faraway Tree had all these great characters like Mister Watsizname and Silky the Fairy, and at the top of the tree were all these strange lands the kids got to visit. I kept wishing and wishing and wishing for that tree. I would look out my bedroom window thinking surely all that wishing would make it appear. Didn’t happen, but every now and again I still look out my backyard thinking today is the day.

Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Eyeball by Paul Zindel
I mean, c’mon! The title alone makes it worth a read! And it gets better – the main character is a guy named “Marsh” Mellow and he carries a raccoon in his pocket. A raccoon! He’s convinced the whole world hates him (hey, he’s 15, didn’t we all?) but then he meets up with Edna Shinglebox and after insulting her numerous times he realizes she’s every bit the freak he is and just as depressed. They end up going on a cross country adventure and the story is a bit of a self-discovery journey. I loved this book.

The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson
This book was released in 1983 when I was in Grade 10 and it solidified my desire to become a writer because I wanted to write something this awesome. The story premises is that five teens whose rich parents consider them an embarrassment or worse are sent to an exclusive boarding school in Vermont to be killed. Not our average plot. I remembering reading the back blurb and digging into my jeans pocket for enough money to buy it because no way was I leaving the store without it. The book is both dark and comedic and had a bit more sexual content in it than was generally accepted in the 80s which caused a bit of controversy, none of which I was aware of because I was too busy reading the book to care. Apparently they are now making it into a movie.

And there you have it. Incidentally, all of these books have a prominent place on my Keeper Shelf.

Kelly Boyce
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